Snap the Whip

All American

Louis Zona breathed a sigh of relief a couple of months ago when Snap the Whip safely returned to the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown.

The Butler was the first museum built solely for works by American artists, and for decades, Butler family members augmented its collection with masterpieces such as Albert Bierstadt’s The Oregon Trail and Edward Hopper’s Pennsylvania Coal Town. After Joseph G. Butler III died in 1981, Zona was appointed director. At the time, he chaired Youngstown State University’s art department, but his association with the museum began in the early 1970s. “My dissertation was about museum operations, and I used the Butler for my lab,” says Zona. 

John Ruthven

20th century Audubon

At the corner of Vine and West 8th in downtown Cincinnati, a giant mural covers the entire side of a six-story building. It depicts a colorful, swirling flock of birds: passenger pigeons, now extinct. The last passenger pigeon, Martha, died at the Cincinnati Zoo on Sept.

If it has to do with birds in or around Cincinnati, Ruthven probably was part of it. 

Born in 1924, Ruthven knew he wanted to be a professional artist from an early age, preferably a wildlife artist. Like so many young men of that era, however, his dream was deferred by World War II; John enlisted in the U.S. Navy after he graduated from high school in 1943. 

Miles Gallery

Where the child things are

What are some lovable wild things, a colorful and very hungry caterpillar, and a big red dog — along with 16,000 of their friends — all doing in Findlay, Ohio? 

There, Dan Chudzinski meticulously cares for thousands of works of original art from much-loved books like Where the Wild Things Are; The Very Hungry Caterpillar; Clifford the Big Red Dog series; The Cat in the Hat; Arthur the Aardvark; and many, many more.
“By day, I’m the curator here,” says Chudzinski, who also works as a professional artist. “I look after this amazing collection of children’s-book art and give people a reason to care about the art and experience it firsthand.” 

Nancy Crow

Star quilter

Nancy Crow’s quilts hang in the Smithsonian and the Museum of Folk Art. They’ve been on exhibit in China, England, France, and other countries. Some of her quilts even appear on the covers of two of Maya Angelou’s books.

Surprisingly, for a fabric artist as accomplished as Crow is, she did not learn to sew when she was young. She became an avid knitter in high school, but didn’t create any fabric art until she took a course in tapestry weaving at Ohio State University. Her BFA and MFA degrees from the university were focused on ceramics art.

Pumpkin variety

Smashing pumpkins

For only the fourth time in its more than century-long history, there will be no Circleville Pumpkin Show this year — yet another scheduling casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

No one is more disappointed than Jack Pine. 

Born in rural Tarlton in southern Ohio, Pine began studying glass-blowing decades ago in Seattle, Washington, and says he’s still perfecting the process to this day at his studio in Laurelville, where he’s a member of South Central Power Company. “I knew I was in love with glass-blowing from the start, as it involves everything I enjoy as an artist,” Pine says. “It’s a mystical medium, and I was drawn to it immediately. You take a glob of hot, molten glass from the furnace and turn it into a gorgeous work of art — that initial experience was magical to me and continues to be.” 

Tim Kuenning carving with chainsaw

Cutting edge

Tim Kuenning looks at a bark-covered log and envisions a design — a majestic eagle, a plump jack-o’-lantern, a bowlegged cowboy with saddle in hand, a hungry seagull perched on a dock waiting for lunch to swim by. Soon, his vision materializes amid a shower of sawdust.

“I carve things in all shapes and sizes,” he says. “However, people are happiest when I do eagles.”

Kuenning, a member of St. Marys-based Midwest Electric, remembers watching a chainsaw artist — a Stihl factory representative — demonstrate how to make rustic chairs and larger-than-life mushrooms with well-placed swipes of the blade.

“I told my wife I could do better than that, and I went to work proving it,” he says. “There has been a lot of practice during the ensuing years — it’s something you have to learn on your own, because no one offers classes on the subject.”

A father points in the distance to show his daughter something while he holds a camera.

Kids and cameras

When I was a kid, my mother couldn’t keep me indoors. I was constantly roaming the woods and fields near our home, dragging back sick and injured wildlife — probably to the animal’s detriment. But the day Mom drew the line (“No more critters!”) was the day she saw me coming down the road with a live great blue heron under my arm. The 4-foot bird with the dagger-like beak was nearly as tall as I was.